By Modou S. Joof
Staff of The Gambia’s only public university will begin a sit-in strike on 1st March over poor wages, capacity building and poor facilities, its spokesperson Nyimasata Camara announced Monday evening.
Camara said after last week’s extra-ordinary congress, the faculty and staff association of the University of The Gambia, UTGFSA, are left without choice but to implement their planned sit-down strike.
Efforts to reach a negotiated solution with the Vice Chancellor failed, and she said the strike will continue “until such a time that our demands are met.”
The staff accused the university’s senior management team (SMT) of pursuing misplaced priorities by buying vehicles for themselves when employees of the UTG are poorly paid, denied benefits to further training or studies, a lack of a physical or E-library and internet connection, and poor sanitary conditions at the university.
The six vehicles are said to have cost about D8 million ($200, 000). The UTGFSA said the move is an indication that the management has zero regards for all the persisting problems like poor working and learning conditions for staff and students.
“Their action is seen as insensitive and a case of misplaced priority,” Camara said.
UTGFSA want the SMT dissolved. “One of the most important of these demands is the dissolution of the so-called SMT,” Camara said in a statement delivered to the press at the Law Faculty in Kanifing.
“The UTGFSA firmly believes that our cause is truly important, and that we are forced to take action to ensure the long-term viability and efficiency of the University,” she said.
On February 21, the UTGFSA issued a memo in which it requested for the resignation of the vice chancellor, the two deputy vice chancellors, the university secretary and the university registrar due to “incompetence, inefficiency and misplaced priorities.”
UTG’s Vice Chancellor Professor Faqir Anjum has since threatened to take legal action, claiming his image is being tarnished by Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a senior lecturer on politics and president of the staff association.
In a widely circulated statement, Prof. Anjum said Dr Ceesay “must show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him by the University of The Gambia, his employer.” He said he and the UTG reserves the right to sue Ceesay for “character assassination and defamation.”
But at Wednesday’s press conference, the University’s staff association said the SMT is being unwilling to validate and acknowledge staff concerns and grievances – their openness to dialogue.
Now, the UTGFSA said it will take a deal that would ensure conditions are improved and the SMT dissolved. The “SMT has no legal backing” by the Tertiary and Higher Education Act 2016 or by the 2007 revised Conditions of Services of the UTG, the group said on February 27.
Several members of staff including senior lecturers and departmental heads were in attendance and manifest support to the executive council of the UTG staff association by taking the floor to reinforce their stance.